11 min read

Good News, 3rd September 2021

The Trump Administration's environmental vandalism is getting fixed, one law at a time. Plus, a big human rights victory in Somalia, a just transition in Spain, rising female literacy in Africa, exploding global EV sales, and the return of wild beavers to Scotland.
Good News, 3rd September 2021

This is our free, fortnightly roundup of good news from around the world. For the full experience, you can upgrade to the weekly premium edition, which also comes with mind-blowing science and the best bits of the internet. One third of the subscriber fee goes to charity.

Become a paid subscriber

Good news you probably didn't hear about


India and China are hitting new records on daily vaccinations. On Monday, India administered over 10 million doses in a single day, and then followed up on Tuesday with over 12 million. Meanwhile, China is averaging 20 million people per day - a rate that would vaccinate the entire population of the UK in little more than six days.

A new approach to combating malaria has managed to reduce deaths and illness in children by 70%. The trial, conducted in 6,000 children in Burkina Faso and Mali over 17 months, combined a new malaria vaccine with anti-malarial drugs given at a time of year when children are most vulnerable. BBC

48 million people in West Africa were vaccinated against yellow fever in 2020, a significant increase compared to 2019. This was despite a 6-month interruption due to the pandemic - a remarkable achievement made possible by thousands of healthcare workers who figured out a way to make the rollout safe. WHO

In the past two decades, almost every country in sub-Saharan Africa has made gains in female literacy. In 2000, the proportion of women who could read and write was around 46%; today, it's close to 60%. Even more encouragingly, the literacy rate for young women (15-24 yo) has soared to 72%, and is now just below their male peers. Borgen

A girl writes on a black board at a primary school in Bouake, central Ivory Coast. Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP

Incarceration rates in the United States fell to a 24 year low in 2019 - and then plummeted again by 14% in 2020, to 1.8 million people. There are now half a million fewer people in prison in America compared to 13 years ago, thanks to largely unheralded changes in criminal laws, sentencing patterns and a decline in violent crimes. Vera

A state court in North Carolina has ruled that people who were previously incarcerated now have the right to vote. The decision, which takes immediate effect, stands to impact upwards of 55,000 people previously denied access to the franchise. Law & Crime

A collective housing project in Thailand is empowering underprivileged communities by forming co-operatives to negotiate land deals. More than 130,000 households have benefited, and funding for another 1.2 million houses has been made available, including free units for single mums and the elderly. Reuters

Following the legalisation of the drug “Kratom” in Thailand, over 10,000 offenders have been released from prison and their criminal records wiped clean. Kratom leaves contain Mitragynine, a substance that reduces pain and chronic symptoms of diabetes and high blood pressure. Pattaya Mail

Earlier this year, we reported some good news on SDG7: over a billion people have gained access to electricity in the past decade. According to Bloomberg, while some of that was achieved by new power lines, a lot was also achieved by installing small solar systems designed to power villages, farms or single homes. To date, more than 180 million off-grid solar systems have been sold worldwide, and 420 million people now get their electricity from those systems.

A major human rights victory in Somalia’s Puntland region, after the government approved a bill to outlaw female genital mutilation in a country where most girls are still forced to undergo the practice. The bill includes harsh penalties for hospitals, midwives, and traditional circumcisers who perform the barbaric practice. Reuters

Somali girls at the Galkayo Education Center for Peace & Development in Somalia, where girls and their families are taught about dangers of FGM.

There's been a welcome win for democracy in Zambia, with voters peacefully electing a new president for the third time in the country’s history. Despite fears of political unrest, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema won in a landslide against President Edgar Lungu. All Africa

China just banned written exams for six- and seven-year-olds, as part of sweeping education reforms aimed at relieving pressure in its hyper-competitive school system. Education officials are saying that pressure on pupils from a young age "harms their mental and physical health." China banned written homework for first- and second-graders earlier this year. France24

The US government authorized the PAWS ACT (Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members for Veterans Therapy) authorizing service dogs for veterans with PTSD. The dogs will learn how to shield a veteran from an overwhelming crowd or wake them up if they're having a nightmare. At the end of the program, the veteran trainers will be able adopt their canine pupils. NPR

Switzerland has pledged $12 billion over the next three years to reduce global poverty and increase peacekeeping measures. The ambitious plan will target the refugee crisis and work to stabilise conflict zones where people are forced to flee. Borgen

Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city has created a large network of “green corridors” across the city to offset rising temperatures. The shady walkways and bike lanes have reduced average temperatures in parts of the city by 2°C since they were built in 2018. Price tag? Just $16.3-million. Japan Times

People exercise at the Volador hill in Medellin, Colombia, on 12th June 2021. | AFP-JIJI

Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it


Three years ago, Spain's government signed an agreement with trade unions and energy companies to shut down its entire coal industry and begin a just transition. The last coal mine is now due to close in December, and coal consumption will end completely by 2030. "We expect that the next year is going to be greener, but it's always greener than we expect. This is exponential."ABC

Norway's sovereign wealth fund - the largest in the world, with over $1.3 trillion in assets, including 1.4% of the world's stocks and shares -  just added a new set of environmental criteria to its investment standards, putting serious pressure on natural resource extraction companies, including several of Russia’s energy giants. Barent Observer

The world's largest shipping company, Maersk, just spent $1.4 billion (yes, that's 'billion') on eight new vessels that will be able to run on carbon-neutral fuel. That price tag is 10-15% more expensive than usual, suggesting the company is serious about its carbon neutrality efforts. Long way to go still, but this is an encouraging signal. Reuters

Denmark and Costa Rica are creating an alliance of nations committed to ending both the consumption and production of gas and oil. It's modeled on the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which was formed in 2017 and now boasts 41 members. "This would mark a significant shift in global geopolitics on fossil fuels." Gizmodo

In 2019, the UK became the first country in the world to set a net zero emissions target. Three years later, over 70% of world emissions are now covered by net-zero legislation, have net-zero emissions legislation under discussion, or occur where net-zero is the policy position of the government. Things change slowly... then they change very fast. BNEF

Installations of renewable energy projects in the United States hit a new high in the first six months of 2021. Just over 9.9 GW of onshore and offshore wind, battery storage, and utility-scale solar capacity was added in the first half of the year, a 17% increase over the same period in 2020. Power Mag

#MAGA

Vietnam's gotten the memo. Last year, rooftop solar went from 378 MW to 9.8 GW. The country now boasts the highest installed capacity of solar in Southeast Asia. In the last few months Vietnam has also scrapped plans for 9.5 GW of coal-fired power. None of this is an accident. It's due to well designed feed-in-tariffs, tax incentives and waivers of land leases. VN Express

The Australian government may be in complete denial about climate change, but investors aren't. Total assets under management by ethical investment funds in Australia leapt by 30% last year, and now account for 40 cents of every professionally managed dollar. Meanwhile, half of the top 100 listed companies have committed to net zero targets, up from a fifth a year ago. Reuters

Ali Allawi, the deputy prime minister and finance minister of Iraq, has made an unprecedented call to fellow oil producers to move away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy, ahead of a key OPEC meeting. "Renewable energy offers the ability to build a cleaner and more efficient electricity sector." Guardian

A joint project by Swedish steel company SSAB, state-owned utility Vattenfall, and mining company LKAB just delivered the world’s first batch of fossil-free steel. The economics don't work yet for this yet, but it's an important milestone on their way to the goal of commercial production in 2026. Forbes

Global EV sales are cranking. Around 2.65 million new cars were bought during the first half of 2021, an increase of 168% over 2020. This hyper-growth needs to be seen relative to a low base from the pandemic, but it's still super impressive. 6.3% of all cars sold globally so far this year have been battery or hybrid vehicles.

The only home we've ever known *


The world is officially rid of leaded petrol, after a refinery in Algeria used up the last stockpile in July. Most developed countries banned it in the 80s and 90s, but it took a 20 year campaign by the UN to get rid of it in Africa and the Middle East. It’s estimated elimination will prevent more than 1.2 million deaths annually. Quartz

Little by little, India is restoring its mangroves. After a century of losses, between 1987 and 2019, the country increased net mangrove cover by 93,000 ha, a rise of about 25%. It's one of the largest and most successful mangrove restoration efforts of all time. World Bank

One year after the Great American Outdoors Act was signed, more than $285 million in projects are underway across the national forest system in 40 states, with another 1,000 improvement projects — including campgrounds, trails and visitor centers — in the pipeline. Roll Call

The US EPA has finally banned the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops. This was supposed to happen in 2016, but Trump's EPA reversed the decision in one of its many acts of environmental and public health vandalism. It's a long overdue victory, coming after 14 years of pressure from environmental and labour groups. Conversation

Another Trump era ruling has been reversed, which allowed sand mining on beaches protected by the Coastal Barrier Resources Act. It's a crucial environmental victory that will keep pristine, undeveloped beaches intact, where they provide a home for coastal birds and a buffer against storm surges and rising seas. Audabon

Third time's the charm. A federal judge has thrown out Trump administration approvals, granted in late 2020, for a large planned oil project on Alaska’s North Slope, saying the process was flawed and didn’t include mitigation measures for wildlife. Guardian

Actually, make that four. A federal judge in Arizona has reintroduced protections for waterways and wetlands across the US, reversing the Trump Administration’s rollback of pollution controls. The move, spurred on by local tribes and environmental groups, will ensure clean drinking water for millions of Americans and safe habitat for thousands of wildlife species. WaPo

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has taken the snail darter off the endangered list. Originally declared endangered in 1975 because of dam construction, the small fish is no longer at risk after being transplanted to other rivers, where numbers are increasing. It's the culmination of decades of unsung work by conservation heroes. WaPo

Scientists check on the snail darter population in the Holston River, north of Knoxville, Tenn., in April 2008. (Joe Howell/Knoxville News Sentinel/AP)

Africa’s largest tropical rainforest, Salonga National Park, has been removed from UNESCO’s list of threatened sites, following 20 years of sustained conservation work and anti-poaching measures. The park plays an important role in climate regulation and is also home to many vulnerable or endangered species, including bonobo monkeys, the bush elephant, and the Congo peacock. Newsweek

Beijing, once known as one of the world's most polluted cities, recorded just ten days of heavy air pollution last year, a drop of nearly 80% since 2015. On good days, residents now speak of 'Beijing blue.' Last month, the city, which is home to 21 million people, recorded its best monthly air quality since records began. CNN

Kenya's Wildlife Service says that for the first time in 21 years, not a single rhinoceros was poached in the country’s national parks in 2020. The agency credits a new strategy that focuses on providing rangers with housing, equipment and support to be able to respond around the clock. VOA

Chinese officials have announced that they no longer consider giant pandas an endangered species. There are now 1,800 giant pandas living in the wild, thanks to a series of conservation initiatives in recent years. Those initiatives have also benefited other species: Siberian tigers, Asian elephants, and crested ibises are all seeing population increases too. NPR

The number of beavers in Scotland has more than doubled in the last three years. There are now over 1,000 wild animals in lakes and rivers across Scotland's southern Highlands. Hunted to extinction 400 years ago in the UK, they're now back thanks to illegal re-wilding efforts by environmental activists. BBC

Electronic mail


Daianna Karaian and Robbie Dale are the duo behind one of our favourite newsletters, called Today Do This. It's a ‘do-something-about-the-news letter’ that highlights one major headline each week, and suggests a simple, practical action you can take to make a difference. If you want to get a flavour, here's their annual roundup with 52 simple actions anyone can take.

We like it because it gives practical, no-nonsense suggestions on how to actually help. The newsletter is a real labour of love, and you can tell from the way each edition is put together, and from Daianna and Robbie's commitment to the cause. As they say, 'ideas and words and prayers only go so far. To get things done, you do. Young or old. Black or white. Round or square. It doesn’t matter."

Sign up over here: Today Do This


Alright, we are all done here. Hope you're doing alright out there, we know the regular news has been pretty awful in the last few days.

Hang in. We'll see you in a fortnight.

Much love,

FC HQ

FC logo
Intelligent optimism, down under. You're receiving the free edition. You can upgrade to the premium edition over here (comes with mind-blowing technology and the best bits of the internet, and one third of your fee goes to charity). If you need to unsubscribe, you'll break our hearts but we understand that it's us, not you. There's a button for that below. We're also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

Enjoying these posts? Subscribe for more